Headed north

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The 51st Legislature second session will begin on Jan. 21 in Santa Fe. This is a 30-day session that mostly covers budget and finance.

Many committees have already begun work in preparation for the upcoming short session. The House Appropriations Committee began meeting on Jan. 13, and the Senate Finance committee met on Jan. 15.

Elva K. Österreich/El Defensor Chieftain: New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn and Lt. Governor John Sanchez visit New Mexcico Tech’s Macey center Wednesday to support local water infrastructure projects. They are encouraging local legislators to support a capital outlay project of $1.8 million for the San Acacia Levee Project for flood protection, a grant to rehabilitate Magdalena wells and various infrastructure projects in Socorro. Sanchez said Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration is asking legislators around the state to invest 60 percent of the state’s capital outlay funds in water infrastructure around New Mexico.

Speaker of the House W. Ken Martinez said this short session will focus on adopting a “good working budget for the people of New Mexico.”

Martinez said he will also be focusing on job initiatives, educational opportunities for kids and continuing to work on DWI initiatives.

“I also want to encourage the House to look into the minimum wage,” Martinez said. “It has been a while since that has been addressed in our state. Putting more dollars into the hands of the working class instantly puts more money back into our local economy.”

Martinez represents House District 69, serving Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, San Juan, Socorro and Valencia counties. He co-chairs the Legislative Council and the Jobs Council, both interim committees; is a member of the Public School Capital Outlay Oversight Task Force — also an interim committee, the Labor and Human Resources Committee, Voters and Elections Committee, and the Rules and Order of Business committee. He is an advisory member of the Water and Natural Resources, Land Grant, New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight and Compacts Interim committees.

“Because it’s a 30-day session, the focus will be on balancing the budget,” said Sen. Howie Morales.

Morales represents Senate District 28, serving Catron, Grant and Socorro counties, and serves as the chair of the Senate’s Economic and Rural Development interim committee. He is a member of the Senate Finance committee and of the Legislative Educational Study and Legislative Finance interim committees; he serves as an advisory member of the Public School Capital Outlay Oversight interim Task Force.

Morales plans to put forth an educational financing bill similar to a bill that was vetoed last session. The bill will help address school and teacher evaluations, and hopes to put more funding back into the school districts.

“Too much of our educational funding is going to the Public Education Department and not enough directly to school districts,” Morales said.

Morales will also be looking at healthcare — mental health and the changes to health care in New Mexico — as well incentives for in-state job development, including developing necessary infrastructure to attract jobs. Addressing water needs, both rural and urban, will be part of that infrastructure.

Though this is a short session, Morales said that much work has been done in interim committees since the last session, and that will help move these initiatives forward during the next 30 days.

“This is the money session,” Representative Don Tripp from Socorro said. “We will primarily focus on the budget.”

Tripp represents House District 49, serving Catron, Socorro and Valencia counties. He serves as a member of the Legislative Finance Interim Committee, as well as the Appropriations and Finance, Agriculture and Water Resources, and Rules and Order of Business committees. He also serves as an advisory member of the Interim Drought Subcommittee.

Tripp will be carrying a bill that will help housing authorities, such as the Socorro County Housing Authority, and focusing on water projects, education and funding for projects in the counties he represents.

“The governor is targeting water as a priority (this session),” Tripp said.

Tripp said that the focus will be on providing capital resources to help communities that are working to address water infrastructure needs, such as those the Village of Magdalena faced last summer, and continue to work to address more permanently.

“The Magdalena water issue sort of helped spur this priority,” Tripp said.

Education, and school evaluations in particular, are also high on Tripp’s priorities for the session. Tripp said that it is important that evaluations be funded properly so that they are conducted with fairness and accuracy.

“These are (federally) mandated evaluations, so they must be done.” Tripp said. “If they are not conducted fairly and accurately, they really aren’t helpful.”

Tripp indicated that he also foresees the legislation offering drivers license to immigrant workers will arise again this session, and predicts there will be some form of gun control legislation, especially in light of the school shooting that occurred just this week in Roswell.

“Since this is a budget session, I think those will be held off until the next (long) session.” Tripp said.

The regular legislative session opens on the third Tuesday in January of each year. Sessions alternate between long (60-day) and short (30-day) sessions. The short sessions are generally known to focus on budget and finance policies.

To reach your legislators:

Representative W. Ken Martinez, District 69: ken.martinez@nmlegis.gov; 505-287-8801 in Grants, or 505-986-4782 at the New Mexico State Capitol.

Senator Howie Morrales, District 28: hcm260@gmail.com; 575-574-0043 in Silver City, or 505-986-4863 at the Capitol.

Representative Don Tripp, District 49: trippsdon@netscape.net; 575-835-2465 in Socorro, or 505-986-4220 at the Capitol.

For further information, visit http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislator_search.aspx.